HRW: Libya armed groups preventing thousands of families from returning to Benghazi

HRW: Libya armed groups preventing thousands of families from returning to Benghazi

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [HRW report] Thursday that numerous armed groups, some linked to the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), are preventing thousands of internally displaced individuals from returning home.

The LNA-affiliated groups are reportedly preventing 3,700 families from entering the city. Those affected claim that these pro-LNA forces have warned them not to enter the city and attacked some of the families to intimidate others. The groups justified these attacks by claiming that the civilians were affiliated with ISIS. LNA is reportedly justifying the act by claiming that these individuals are terrorists or supporters of terrorism.

The LNA is headed by Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter, who, in May 2014, started “Operation Dignity” to remove alleged terroristic forces from Benghazi. As a result of Operation Dignity, an estimated 13,000 families have fled the city. HRW states that those families that have been interviewed by the organization claim that the LNA has seized their property, arrested and tortured who remained in Benghazi, and engaged in enforced disappearances. HRW states that if these allegations are true, and the acts were done with malintent, amount to war crimes.

HRW wrote a letter [text, PDF] sent to Hifter last Saturday in order to “discuss [their] concerns about violations allegedly being committed in Benghazi under forces linked with the LNA.” At the end of the letter, HRW asked Hifter to provide more information on what measures he has taken to ensure that internally displaced people will be allowed to return home, that seized land will be returned to their rightful owners, that individuals accused of extrajudicial executions and attacks against citizens are removed from active duty and held accountable for their acts, and, lastly, why he has not released any findings into supposed investigations into such crimes.

The LNA has yet to respond.